Tavenner: Health insurance marketplace on track to open Oct. 1

The federal government is on track to open the health insurance marketplace October 1, while trying several tactics, including leveraging mobile media applications and getting help from sports teams, to persuade young people to sign up for health insurance, according to Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

A "big section" of CMS' marketing efforts are targeting consumers aged 26 to 35 to participate in state health insurance exchanges, Tavenner told Dallas Morning News columnist Pamela Yip in an interview published Sunday.

"We're trying to do it through sports, through media applications--your iPhone, iPad--the types of things that younger individuals tend to use," Tavenner said in the column. "We also have external marketing groups who are focusing energy on what's appealing to a young person. It's not the idea of cancer or a heart attack; it's the idea of a sports injury. How do you get protected around these things?"

Young couples also are targeted, Tavenner said, with marketing that appeals to their desire to take care of their children.

The biggest challenge in running successful exchanges is "getting consumers comfortable with what's going to be available and helping to manage their expectations," she added. "It's making people aware of how you get started." 

"Navigator" organizations will help people sign up for insurance in Texas, she said. The federal government, which is setting up the exchanges in 26 states including Texas, will steer consumers toward online applications because "the quicker the process, the easier it is," she said. 

CMS is currently loading insurer data into the exchanges, verifying data accuracy and testing the technology before the exchanges go live Oct. 1, Tavenner said. Consumers will be able to look at insurance rates for their states around Labor Day, she added. A call center for questions launched at the end of June along with the website healthcare.gov.

Tavenner was in Dallas to address the National Association of County and City Health Officials conference, and visit with local business and healthcare leaders, Yip reported.

Her newspaper interview followed Tavenner's July 9 post on the HHS.gov/Healthcare blog trying to dispel so-called myths about the health insurance marketplace, which she said is on track to open Oct. 1.

The marketplace will check income information submitted by applicants against electronic data including tax filings, wage information and Social Security data, she wrote. Additional data will be requested "in most circumstances" when the applicant doesn't have a tax return on file, for example, or claims an income not supported by current wage data.

She also said the system includes safeguards to ensure people cannot fraudulently qualify for tax credits to help pay insurance premiums, including IRS reconciliation of advance payments of the premium tax credits.

For more:
-read the article (subscription required)
-here's Tavenner's blog post